Will tomorrow be the last day of Carol Molnau’s tenure as Transportation Commissioner? It appears so.
Senate transportation committee officials are declining comment until after tomorrow morning’s Senate floor session, and TPT’s Mary Lahammer is reporting what we’ve been hearing — that Molnau’s confirmation will be on the agenda tomorrow.
If so, it is likely that Molnau will be down to one job after the Senate vote. Molnau, a Republican who also serves as Lt. Governor, was a controversial pick when she was first appointed to head MnDOT. A staunch opponent of mass transit, Molnau was under considerable fire from DFLers even before the Interstate 35W Bridge disaster last August.
Molnau’s defensive performance in the wake of that disaster, combined with indications that MnDOT may not have adequately responded to warning signs before the collapse, has sealed her fate, at least in the eyes of many DFL lawmakers. State Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who chairs the transportation committee, has been outspoken in his belief that Molnau needs to go.
If Molnau is ousted, it would be the second major blow to Gov. Tim Pawlenty in four days. On Monday, the legislature overrode Pawlenty’s veto of the Transportation budget. Removing Molnau would be a further sign that the legislature has wrested power on transit issues from the governor’s office.
Molnau is in a precarious position because the state Senate has not taken up her appointment as MnDOT chief. Under Minnesota law, the Senate has the power to confirm commissioners, but they are allowed to serve until and unless the Senate decides to reject them.
The last commissioner to be rejected was another Pawlenty appointee, Cheri Pierson Yecke, who was ousted as Commissioner of Education at the close of the 2004 session.